Take note of the socialist assumptions of AutoZone criticisms in Cranston.

Buzzwords flow through political and ideological debates — at the state level even more so than the federal — to the extent that one has to wonder whether the people using them really subscribe to the ideas that they represent.

Consider Democrat Representative from Cranston Brandon Potter, tweeting about the city’s decision to permit construction of an AutoZone distribution warehouse and some other commercial spaces:

When a city is severely below its affordable housing obligations, sees people sleeping in tents under a bridge, and builds an AutoZone—rather than housing—right next to them, it’s clear we need state action to hold municipalities accountable.

With the disclaimer that I haven’t familiarized myself extensively with this particular controversy, I’d note that it is not my understanding that the city is building the AutoZone warehouse.  Rather:

  • Somebody owned or owns this parcel of land.
  • Somebody else bought or wants to buy the parcel in order to build some commercial space.
  • No competing plan is on the table for a residential (much less specifically affordable-housing) project on that lot.

What Potter and other activists seem to be advocating, therefore, is that the city place a moratorium on any development where affordable housing might go for however long it takes for those projects to come forward.  Look at the language of United Way activist Kristina Brown: “we are at a point where every time we lose a parcel that could be used for dense development, we are creating more obstacles for ourselves to bring on the housing the community needs.”

Take note, property owners.  It is not your parcel.  It is “our” parcel.

Another way Brown could have meant what she said (but didn’t) is that “we,” the activists, lost another opportunity.  That wouldn’t be a criticism of the city, but rather a lament at the activists’ inability to compete.

For his part, Potter takes this up a notch.  He thinks municipalities are so obviously the true owners of all property within their borders that when they don’t do what the activists think is the right thing, the state government must step in and take over true ownership.

If you’re wondering how, then, property owners and other people in a community can have a say in their communities, the answer in Rhode Island is increasingly that they have to engage in back-room corruption and bare-knuckle political brawls to seize power at the highest level possible.  This approach been working out well for the state.


Featured image by Justin Katz.

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